Psycho-Pass is a series very close to my heart, one of the first I watched when I started viewing Anime and one of the few from that period that still holds up on repeat viewings.
I seem to get something new out of it after each viewing and the series is regularly on my mind, giving me food for thought when I’m bored, whether it be my interpretation of how the SIBYL system works to constructing a version of season 2 that doesn’t suck. On one of my more recent Psycho-Pass contemplation sessions I thought about a part of the series I often do, the antagonist: Shogo Makishima.
Some things to take into account if you don’t know much about the show or would like to understand where I’m coming from:
(This is of course my interpretation and probably not one everyone will agree with, if you disagree please let me know in the comments!)
Everybody Loves Shogo
Seriously, have a look at the top reviews on MAL for the series, almost every single one (negative reviews of the show included) have praise for the big bad Shogo. This praise generally surrounds his charismatic personality and the idea that Shogo’s ideals were correct even if people didn’t agree with the methodology. I used to think this aswell, I even though his violence and destruction was all a necessary evil in bringing about his ideal world prizing individuality. Then it hit me, that’s not how someone like Makishima would think, I had been looking at Makishimas character in the wrong way.
Psycho-Pass is about Psychopaths (duh)
The SIBYL system , Makishima, Kogami and most of the minor villains in the series are psychopathic or, in the case of the SIBYL system, comprised of Psychopathic individuals. It’s built this way so that it can have brains make decisions based on cold hard logic without empathy for individuals clouding it’s judgement, the idea that “those who exist outside of the system are the ones who should be running it”. Basically, those who don’t care about society should be running society because they’re willing to make tough decisions that while perhaps detrimental in the short term will benefit it long run E.G. Sending those with high crime coefficients to (permanent) therapy, at the start this would not have gone over well with the public but eventually (by the time of the show at the least) we can see it’s lead to a better functioning soceity as a whole. Makishima is offered a chance to become part of this system, BECAUSE he’s a Psychopath, BECAUSE he doesn’t care about other people. This of course is a stark contrast to the ideals he spouts about individuality. In truth the only persons individuality he cares about his his own, he just uses these words as a way to do whatever he damn pleases.
A narcissist by nurture, narcissist by nature
Psychopaths are pretty commonly narcissists as well, due to the fact they don’t understand the feelings of others. They believe they are “superior to others in important ways” (this is one of the questions on the HARE psychopathy test used for professional diagnosis).Makishima lives in a world where this is exacerbated by the fact that his psychopathic narcissism does actually make him special in the eyes of the system, in fact he is special even amongst the special, they flock around him in a way self centered individuals like themselves don’t tend to. It’s like they fall for their own tricks, they use all the same manipulation tactics as he and yet still fell under his spell. He knows that people like him want to feel special, unique and he lives in a world where he is one of the few capable of providing that validation. He uses this to turn Rikako Oryo and Toyohisa Senguji into useful pawns in his game, but crucially this is not the case with Gu-Sung Choe (he’s important in this trust me)
Soooo…. What is Makishima all about then?
Makishima does not believe all of what he says, even without extrapolating we can see that to be true within the narrative in regards to his interactions with Rikako and Sengucji, he says what people want to hear to get his way. So if his motivations are no idealistic what are they? I think it’s obvious he seeks validation and recognition of his “accomplishments”, very similar to Rikako whom he does in fact seem to take a sort of mentoring role towards. Whom is able to give him that validation then? Finding that validation is easy in a free world (see later about Oryo’s father). What about in a world as restrictive as the one he lives in? It is those who are able to find him, think like him, those who see the world like him, a creation of his that proves he is capable of being bigger than just himself. Kogami. And (I think) Sasayama. These are not the only ones but the two most important ones that we see.
Part of his motivation, of course, is also purely sadistic, not all Psycho-Paths are murderers (in fact a study suggest that 20% of all CEO’s are certifiable Psychopaths, and most exhibit key psychopathic traits, a real world basis for he idea of psychopaths running society, they already sort of do), Makishima clearly enjoys the suffering of others and employs plans that cause a loss of as many lives as possible. He kills Akane’s friend, , just for kicks after she’s expended her usefulness in drawing out Kogami, this eventually leads to his downfall as Akane doesn’t break after this but becomes more resolute and eventually interrupts his escape, leading to his death.
There is so much more to unpack here this is merely an introduction to a new look at a character that is beloved and generally viewed in one particular way, and thus I feel all of the above necissary to all but the most devout of Psycho-Pass fans. I wish to go into the depths of what makes Makishima, Makishima by looking at his relationships with other characters (and a few other things).
If you don’t have any friends, make some enemies
When we talk about the relationships Makishima has with other people you can generally group them into one of 4 groups:
- Gu-Sung Choe
There’s a clear outlier here but let’s go through these groups and the characters within them that are important to Makishima’s
Whilst there are other people used by Makishima in the series beginning, Rikako is the first one that could not be replaced by someone else, she provides Shogo with something unique. She offers us an idea of how people like Shogo could have lived before the system through her fathers work and how the system pushes these people into a corner and ostracises them. Her father Roichi channeled his demons into his work, while Rikako herself actually acts out on these desires when she’s restricted from indulging in them in the same way.
She’s presented like Makishima’s protegee, helping her get away with her crimes whilst also giving her guidance in her art. Being that Makishima is said to have been working in Oso Academy as a teacher since 2109 it can be assumed that he has probably been tutoring her for at least 3 years, perhaps waiting for her to hit boiling point with her need for creative output and seizing on that weakness. It seems to be so as in her final appearance in episode 8 Makishima seems to be somewhat fed up with her, asking her about her art and responding with “That’s an interesting opinion” when she gives him an explanation he presuemably does not like. His patience with her has worn thin, and when he sets his sights on Kogami he gives up on her all together. It seems perhaps he respected her fathers genius (like he does Choe’s) and was dissapointed when she turned out to not meet his vision of him.
When her death comes at the hand of Senguji she remarks that he too will be offed by Mkishima when he becomes bored of him. She finally sees Makishima through to his core. Rikako herself is a very interesting character and I could probably write about for days about her in herself but I won’t indulge myself (for now.)
Akane’s impact on Makishima’s developement is mostly indirect but crucially she’s the one who wakes Kogami up from his numbed state (like he says in episode 2 that he had stopped making decisions by himself) and setting the two on an inevitable collision course. She’s also important to Makishima in the fact he is able to use her to get to Kogami, something that would not be possible without her specifically. I think a main point in the show is his underestimation of her is what (partially) leads to his downfall as when she arrives at the arena where her friend Yuki and Kogami are he decides on a whim to kill Yuki ,who at this stage, like Rikako, had outlived her usefulness in helping uncover Kogami’s true self, in front of Akane pretty much just for the hell of it. He could have left Yuki alive, as she didn’t know anything that could have exposed him, or he could have killed her in private if needs be but he was willing to show his face to Akane so he could bathe in the joy of breaking her down for his own amusement.
It’s important to note that Akane, like the Sibyl system, is ultimately unable to directly intervene in the conflict between Kogami and Makishima no matter how hard they try.
Whilst there are other people that Makishima exploits purely for personal gain throughout the series (and beyond in Psycho-Pass media) Senguji is by far the most relevent. Makishima seems to not be all that interested in Senguji on a personal level, definitely not the way he was with Rikako or Kogami, evident where Senguji notes that Makishima smiles at the mere mention of Kogami’s name during a conversation the two are having.
Before his death at the hands of Kogami, Makishima mentions to him that he couldn’t imagine being killed by anyone other than him, on re watch I think you can see he comes to that conclusion during Kogami’s death battle with Senguji as he is very willing to drop him, a man that he had known for 10 years, in a split second after he decides that Kogami is a worthy opponent.
In the end Senguji provided the monetary backing to allow Makishima’s evil genius to flourish and any interest in him as a “toy” was long gone before we see him in the show.
(Also one thing I WAS SURE was part of the reason Makishima kept Senguji around was that he was researching how to fully mechanize the mind and the fact he let him die and events in the visual novel Mandatory Happiness would be complimentary to this idea, I was sure this would come up in season 2 because Psycho-Pass was (in my opinion) ostensibly Makishima’s story, this theory for another time perhaps)
Allow me to break the order in which I set these up as to leave the character that should conclude this whole thing for last.
With that aside Choe gets his own category because his relationship with Makishima is unique. If I were to try and describe it I would call it one of mutual respect, the only relationship for Makishima where respect is in fact mutual. Their relationship is beneficial to each other as neither can fulfill his potential without the others skill set. Makishima wants to cause chaos, and Choe want’s to bring down the sibyl system, combining Choe’s formidable skills as a hacker with with Makishima’s genius, criminally asymptomatic nature and propensity for violence (Choe mentions to Rikako he doesn’t handle blood all that well) the two cover for each others weaknesses making a formidable team. It’s funny because I think Choe is closer to what people think of Makishimas character than the man himself is, from an ideological standpoint, case in point Choe explains to Kagari how merely exposing the SIBYL systems true nature would cause it’s downfall, before being killed by Chief Kasei but when Makishima learns of the nature of the system he does not destroy it by these relatively peaceful means, with Choe dead he decides to kill it and take as many innocent lives as possible in the process, whilst also using this as an excuse to clash with Kogami.
I think Choe serves well as the systems antithesis as while it needs Makishima to move forward, he needs him to destroy the system. Even at that we can see that a lot of ideals and motivations ascribed to Makishima are in actuality Choe’s, Shogo uses them as a pretense for the violent acts he commits. The closest thing to a “friend” Makishima ever had.
Anyone who watched the show could guess that a section on Makishimas opponents could easily outstrip the length of my writing so far, a section on his relationship with Kogami could easily quadruple it I think. So for this I think it would be prudent to write in “brief” about how his relationship with Kogami illustrates his true motivation.
As I mentioned above, the dichotomy of Makishima and Kogami is deserving of it’s own analysis that I may very well do at some stage but for this one need only understand what Kogami means to Makishima. He completes him.
To see what I mean by this we must go back to what Makishima really wants to achieve, vindication. And who other than Kogami can offer him that? Few people see Shogo for what he is, are able to think like he is, and fewer still are willing to hand down the retribution that he deserves. For if no one attempts to punish him for his misdeeds why bother doing them? Just like Rikako who needs people to see her art Shogo too needs someone to legitimize his crimes. The SIBYL system won’t do that, but Kogami will.
“I love this game people call life from the bottom of my heart”. These are the last words Makishima speaks directly to the SIBYL system, lamenting that while being a type of God might be fun in it’s own way, he needs to be a part of this game to feel alive.
Kogami completes, if only for a brief moment, Makishimas desire to feel alive, he is the conscience Makishima lacks that can make him feel closer to humanity, to have his atrocities treated as such and he loves it.
Above is no picture of a man afraid of death, but one that accepts it wholeheartedly having found what he truly desired from life, completeness.
Wow this turned out to be so much longer than I originally intended and I didn’t even mention everything I thought I would at the start. This is the first time I’ve done something of this sort so please let me know how I could improve. If you’d like to ask me a question or I wasn’t clear enough explaining any of my points, don’t hesitate to ask me about it.
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